A Character Doodle

Rather than scratch out more head doodles (see several recent posts) I thought I'd do a full-figure character drawing. Without any other bright ideas, it occurred to me to illustrate a character from a game I've been goofing around with.

Anybody play "Cataclysm, Dark Days Ahead?" Here is my interpretation of my latest character as he looked before leaving his recently acquired farmhouse to desperately search for pots and pans to cook with.

The shirt is pinker than intended. Pretend it's more crimson colored. Thanks.

This is Moses Duvall, and he recently survived a Moose attack. Don't laugh. An angry moose is serious trouble and Moses was lucky to escape with his life. While he healed, he spent several days coping with a nasty bout of the common cold. Then he suffered a serious infection from a deep bite wound received during a melee with several zombies.

I'm not much of a gamer but I've always wanted to be. Sega Genesis was the last game system I bought and I got it on sale because the newer stuff was coming out and nobody wanted it. Loved that thing, and I bought a lot of cartridges really cheap. I never had much time for it, but when I was able to play I enjoyed it a lot.

At an advanced age, in the age of the iPad – a perfect gaming machine (for me) – I have even less time to goof around, but now there's no fussing with connecting wires to the back of a T.V., or fumbling with cartridges and manuals. Touch and play. I play mostly before sleep, in bed, after I've done a little reading.

Cataclysm DDA is a game I've had on the iPad for well over a year, and only recently have I learned how to make it go, although I'm far from being successful at it. It is extremely complex and difficult. It's a post-apocalyptic survival game, although this apocalypse is actually a multitude of apocalypses. Dinosaurs, giant worms, science experiments gone wrong, spores from outer space, Lovecraftian horrors, giant ants, a large variety of zombies (acid-spitting, exploding, shocking, super-strong, extra-tough, shrieking –attracts more zombies –etc.,) robots seeking to destroy all humans, mutagens and diseases, cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers, packs of wolves... and angry moose. I've lost at least five characters to moose.

It might sound very exotic and you'd think it must be a visual feast, but it's an ASCII game and there are no animated graphics to speak of. If you were to watch an ASCII purist play, the screen would look like a mishmash of alphanumeric symbols, as though an old typewriter had vomited onto your iPad.

I use a simple tileset that retains the spirit of the ASCII heritage but has more of a variety of symbols and isn't such a strain on my eyes. I have trouble looking at white characters on a black background and too much ASCII can give me a temporary kind of snow-blindness.

One of the reasons this game appeals to me is that so much of it relies on imagination. You don't watch it, you look at the symbols and read about what happens. The text tells you that Moses – fresh from killing several zombies – is wearing a hunting hat, a backpack, jeans, a utility vest, a small purse (he found that on a zombie child); and he carries a wood axe, a butcher knife and keeps a crowbar handy... but it's up to you to picture what it all looks like. Well, in this case, it was up to me. That's why it's so cool.

Mr. Duvall has survived twelve days. In my CDDA career that's a pretty good run. He spends most of his time dressing his wounds, scrounging for wild vegetables in the bushes, and boiling toilet water to make it safe to drink. Yeah, you have to do that. It's all about surviving any way you can. And run like hell if you see a moose.

The End.

Heads. More Heads.

Some more little head drawings. All of these were improvised, no reference.




Kind of a cheat to keep the blogposts flowing by posting half-arsed scribbles but it's inspiring me to get the lead out and start drawing in my free time. I'm usually so burnt out from work that it's hard to persuade myself to assume my working pose after having been there for 8, 9, 10 hours already. But I'm enjoying it. Still have to take lots of breaks and I should exercise, too, but it's fun enough that I'm starting to look forward to it!

Nowhere To Hide

This illustration was for an excellent Mercury News Sunday Tech section story by Marisa Kendall. There have been a lot of tech-related privacy/security stories in recent years but – although the details and particulars of the stories change – as an illustrator charged with coming up with yet another image that addresses the core concept, it can flummox creative inspiration. In short: I was stumped.

Drawn with Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop.
Open in a new window for a larger image.

I envisioned a person, spied on by the various technologies suggested by the story's budget line; nothing interesting occurred to me. I suppose an image similar to the final is what crossed my mind, but with more conventional representations of the person and items. It was going to look boring. 

Determined to do this differently, I thought about John Lennon's drawings and drew the figure in a way that reminded me of his work, but when I finished my initial scribbles and then went to look at Lennon's images, I realized I was really thinking about late-stage Picasso drawings; the 50s and 60s era. (Love that stuff and have done work inspired by him before.)

The problem that comes with drawing in an unconventional style – unconventional for me – is I can't tell if it looks right until I'm almost done with it. The design of the person came most easily, but I spent a lot of time fussing with the hand and face relationships. I almost gave up on the idea, but I started coloring him and then it seemed to transform into a design that didn't put me off.

The difficulty I found trying to interpret the iPhone, the satellite and traffic light was in trying to make them recognizable. I abandoned more exaggerated drawings, retreating to simpler representations because even I couldn't tell that my haphazard arrangement of circles and rectangles was supposed to be a traffic light. The objects are therefore simpler, less daring caricatures for the sake of clarity and the usual time constraints.

I'm pretty happy with it, although I felt more like a member of the audience than the performing artist as it all came strangely together. 


As another exercise, I created an animated version. I dabble inconsistently with animation, and so I have to relearn lost knowledge each time I wade back in. At work, I'm going to try to translate some of my drawings to animated gifs for the website. This is my first whack at it, but I didn't get through it until several days after the story posted. It was a too complex and improvisational process this time, but I learned how important a clear and simple plan is, even for a fairly short presentation.

The End!

Some More Little Head Drawings

Here's another quick batch of head doodles, just to fill the spot for this week. I image-searched for head profiles and drew about half of these from reference, but without trying to recreate the source images; I just riffed on the pictures. Then I doodled the rest out of my head, freestyle.

Drawing comitted in Photoshop.

Still trying to find time and build momentum for doing some comics projects. Hm. I've typed that a few times over the past ten years...

The End 

Tweeting His Way to the White House

Here is a full-page illustration/graphic that I slapped together a couple of weeks ago. It is an arrangement of Trump tweets – hand-picked by reporters, editors, me – arranged and illustrated. Confidentially, it didn't start coming together until the final two or three hours. I was worried as I worked on it and the deadline approached.


Open in a new window for a HUGE, possibly readable image.

The general theme we decided on was "From the Trump Tower to the White House," and it was suggested it be done as a game board. I considered and explored using designs reminiscent of "Life, " and "Monopoly but trying to fit the narrative into a board game theme felt forced. It could have been done with wiggle-room for trial and error maybe, but there was only a day or so to get it done.

So, I made a simple timeline of tweets and inserted pictures and a blob-brush twitter-bird along the way. I added the orange toupée late in the process, too; which is why the bird isn't toupéed in every instance. I didn't have the time or the energy to crawl back in and add one on the scalp of each bird.

It's fun, and kind of cute, if anything Trump-related can be cute.

Anyway. The End.

Where Did The Pokemon Go Go?

I drew this for a short piece – written by Angela Hill – that ran in the Bay Area News Group's quarterly magazine. And, just now, I see that they published it online, as well. Angela always does good work.

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop. Open in a new window for a very large image.


The article pondered the sudden rise and swift fall of the Pokemon Go phenomenon. My illustrative offering suggests that, possibly, they were hunted to extinction.

This fad did not capture me. I think my gray hair and bifocals rendered me Pokemon Go-proof. Or perhaps it is because my daughter is too young and therefore I was not swept up in the excitement.

I'm more of a retro-gamer. If it's not more than twenty years old I won't even look at your "silly video game." I sort of faded from the cutting edge when the Sega Genesis disappeared from the toy stores. But I do game on the iPad and hit websites like GOG.com where they sell old computer games on the cheap. Masters of Orion 2 is my latest purchase, along with Afterlife and EV Nova; and I occasionally fire up my late 90s iMac to play Unreal Tournament (1999 edition.)

That means, twenty years from now, Pokemon might seem cool to me. So, you might find me wandering the streets in 2037 with my retro 2016 iPhone, dancing and waving my cane while I shout: "I finally got the Squirtle!"

The End


Some Head Doodles

I haven't done much lately, so I whipped up a few quick head scribbles.

Drawn in Photoshop!


I'm trying to find extra time for personal work, and I have a comics project I'm really hoping to get to. With luck and determination, I aim to have some substantial output to share here. If not, I'll doodle more heads or some other slightly lame thing...

Return to Santa

For a story that can help you with what to do about those unwanted presents! Ran on X-mas day. I really enjoyed making the boxes, and Santa's house was fun, too. I actually like this one!

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop


I've been on a two-week vacation with family, which was nice. There was a lot of driving, sight-seeing and coping with a wretched cold that is finally losing its grip. 

Hope to have more to show in this coming year. I have a goal of putting something once a week! I know, I've said that before. This time I kinda mean it.

Goals for 2017: 
I hope for more drawing time. 
An improvement in health through exercise.
A better job or a major improvement in the one I've got.
The usual...

Here's how it looked in print!

The End.
Happy New Year!



Oakland Tribune Masthead

Weird. Lurking in my blogspot unpublished drafts collection was the following post. Typed it up and forgot about it... for seven years: 

I found this in an old folder on an old computer. I drew it back in 2001, not too long after I was hired in the Pleasanton-based Oakland Tribune graphics department. One of my first tasks was to do an engraving-style image of the Oakland Tribune Tower for the masthead. Strange, but I worked for the Trib for years and yet they sold the tower before I ever had the chance to set foot in it!

I was still very new to Photoshop and I created this with a mouse like the cavemen did. My grasp on the dots-per-inch concept was neolithic as well and, about half-way through, someone explained to me that 72dpi wasn't going to work for print. Yeesh. Told you I was new at Photoshop.


I managed to get it done tho, and it was on every front page – seven days a week – for a decade or so. Kind of cool. 

R.I.P. Oakland Tribune.

Been hellabusy at work and life recently. Still have a couple of recent unfinished unpublished drafts for a couple of illustrations which I will polish up and post soon. But then again, that's what I thought about the OakTribune masthead post, right?

The End.

California Ain't Going Nowhere

I threw this effort together for a Matt Artz: Ace Reporter story about all that noise some folks are making about California seceding from the United States. Turns out it might be more trouble than it's worth – surprise, surprise.

Drawn & colored in Photoshop.


Not too crazy about my Trump doodle there. He looked better early on, but toward the end I zoomed in and refined him until he sort of strayed from a decent likeness. Ah well. He's one of those characters that you don't have to have a perfect likeness to get the point across. I have a feeling I'll have to draw him again a time or two over the next four (8?) years. Plenty of practice ahead.

It ran on the Nov. 27, Sunday front page of the Mercury News, East Bay Times, Marin Independent Journal and looked like this:



The End.

Happy Trumpsgiving!

This artistic effort was created for a story about the possible tension at the Thanksgiving family gathering because of the hard feelings that have been generated by the election. It is, of course, a riff on Norman Rockwell's classic painting.

This is one of those illustrations I'm both happy with and totally disappointed in. I had only about one shift from start to finish. Imagine if I could have cluttered the table with more food, more utensils, more fists shaking, perhaps some food flying through the air. More angry faces! Some background.

Drawn in Photoshop.

Ah well, I guess it turned out alright, all things considered. Below is how it looked in print!



The End.

A Pleasant Evening

Sketched up a couple of goofy, loose character doodles last week. I did some coloring and re-drawing tonight with no purpose other than giving myself some playtime.

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop

Listened to 50s rock & roll and blues from the 20s and 30s and had a blissful 30 minutes or so where I was lost in thought and in the music and time stopped and I was held in a perfect moment.

I came back to Earth on the interruption of a commercial to find most of the drawing was pleasantly colored and the ice had almost completely melted into the orange juice. It made for bland beverage but a pleasant journey.

Too bad the art ain't great, but it was a nice way to spend the evening.

Another Unused Illustration

I found this today in an old folder squirreled away in the archives. It was for a front page story about how the water restrictions and fines weren't working on those people who can afford to pay the fines and keep wasting water... or something like that. It's been a while.



Not sure why it wasn't used. I recall it was a quick turnaround, so maybe it just wasn't fitting right, or the designer didn't dig it. Totally can't remember.

Therefore it's an unsuccessful, unfinished piece but I like it as a rough sketch kind of thing.

The End.


Election Stress

I created this illustration with Manga Studio & Photoshop, and it ran on the front page of the Mercury News on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

The excellent story is by Angela Hill, a writer I've paired with many times in the past. When she writes with a smile I think my work compliments her work very well. You can read this piece online here.

Drawn and painted in Manga Studio with a bit of Photoshop.

The concept occurred to me immediately when I was given the topic. I put the rough together in the early afternoon, after discarding some other compositions along the way. When the rough was accepted, I discovered I only had a few hours to get it finished, so there was some illustration-about-election-stress stress when I found out it was needed that quickly, but it worked out.


Sometimes I think my art is better when I don't get the chance to polish it up too much.

The end.

Illustration Denied

Here is a color rough for an illustration I will not finish... because it's been canceled. This was going to accompany a story about creating pathways and tunnels for animals so that they don't have to cross busy streets and highways. One look at my rough and they decided against it. Sniff.

Had fun drawing it, tho.


Painted in Manga Studio and Photoshop!